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State of the MLS Run In: 5 Weeks to Go

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Portland's in, Vancouver's out. The Crew's in, the Union's out. Shake it all about.

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Edition

This week each conference sees a team drop out of a predicted playoff spot in favor of a newcomer. In the West, Portland's home win over Vancouver combined with the fact that the Whitecaps have only scored 1 goal in their last 7 games (not a typo) makes the Timbers solid favorites to make the wild card round. In the East, the Philadelphia Union had a no-good, very bad week as they lost in the US Open Cup final to Seattle and then couldn't manage to beat the Houston Dynamo at home. That latter draw drops them out of a predicated playoff spot, which now goes to the Columbus Crew, who picked up a huge home win over New England.

Playoff & Trophy Probabilities

This is each team's up to date odds of making the playoffs, earning a top 3 spot, winning the Supporter's Shield, earning a (US) CCL bid, and winning the MLS Cup based on simulating the remainder of the season 10,000 times. A fuller explanation of the methodology is available here.

Avg Pts Playoff % Change Top 3 % MLS Cup % Shield % CCL %
Los Angeles W 62.7 100.0 -- 99.5 26.8 45.0 95.8
Seattle W 62.6 100.0 -- 99.7 14.8 52.2 100.0
Real Salt Lake W 57.3 100.0 +0.1 90.6 12.7 2.0 62.6
DC United E 55.9 100.0 -- 99.2 12.2 0.8 82.0
Sporting KC E 52.4 98.8 +0.1 87.1 9.9 -- 28.9
FC Dallas W 52.4 98.2 -0.9 9.8 6.6 -- 11.5
New York E 48.7 84.5 +9.8 43.3 4.8 -- 5.9
New England E 48.6 80.3 -9.3 36.0 3.3 -- 4.9
Columbus E 46.9 60.6 +7.8 18.3 3.0 -- 3.3
Portland W 46.4 76.0 +27.6 0.5 2.8 -- 3.0
Philadelphia 44.7 36.3 -21.1 7.7 1.7 -- 1.9
Toronto FC 44.3 32.3 +14.2 7.7 1.2 -- --
Vancouver 44.0 24.4 -24.0 -- 0.3 -- --
Houston 40.5 6.0 +0.8 0.7 0.1 -- 0.1
Chicago 38.8 1.4 -2.2 0.1 -- -- --
Colorado 38.4 1.0 -1.9 -- -- -- --
San Jose 35.1 0.4 -0.8 -- -- -- --
Montreal 29.8 -- -- -- -- -- --
Chivas USA 28.9 -- -- -- -- -- --
Avg Pts for Playoffs (W) 46.9
Avg Pts for Playoffs (E) 46.7

Outside the playoff races, the most interesting change was in the Shield race. The Seattle Reserves' big loss to New York combined with the Galaxy's come-from-behind win over Dallas has made the race nearly a dead heat. You'll notice that despite LA averaging slightly more points, Seattle finishes with 1st place and the Shield more often. Among other things, that's likely a consequence of the fact that the Sounders almost certainly have the tiebreaker over LA. The Sounders currently have 2 more wins (the first tiebreaker) and a game in hand. I'll leave the math as an exercise for the reader, but it's impossible for LA to make up 2 more wins and there still being a tie on points at the end of the season. So if there is a tie, the Sounders take the Shield.

The other somewhat interesting change is RSL's increased odds of a top 3 spot in the West after a big win over Colorado. At over 90% and with very little chance of catching up to LA or Seattle for #2, they're pretty close to locked into the 3rd seed, which locks Dallas into the 4th seed (since they're very unlikely to drop down to 5). With the seeds settling in there's much less to play for in the West in those seeds, so maybe Dallas and RSL start to rest players for the playoff run.

Teams Eliminated

Teams that have been eliminated by three decreasingly stringent standards. Read here for more details.

It happened! A team was finally mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and as predicted it wasn't Chivas! Instead the Impact are the first to have their tribal council torch snuffed out. Chivas are a single point away from elimination, so that's likely this week.

San Jose and Colorado both barely stave off Effective Elimination since they can both just get to 46 points, but both the Rapids and Chicago join the ranks of Projected Elimination with less than a 2% chance of making the playoffs.

  • Mathematical Elimination (Unable to make the playoffs in any scenario)
    Montreal (new)
  • Effective Elimination (Unable to make 45 points even with perfect play)
    Chivas TBD, Montreal
  • Projected Elimination (less than 2% chance of making the playoffs in simulation)
    Chicago (new), Colorado (new), San Jose, Chivas TBD, Montreal

Remaining Strength of Schedule

Using the same simulation, we can also determine remaining schedule strength by seeing how a league average team would do with each team's remaining schedule. Teams at the top have schedules against which an average team got the most PPG, meaning we think they have the easiest remaining schedule.

Hey, Seattle no longer has the toughest schedule in the league now that they got that game in New York out of the way. Now they only have the 2nd toughest! The hardest schedule goes to the Crew, who have 3 of their last 5 on the road. And they face the Union twice, with that pair of games likely deciding a playoff spot.

The easiest schedule goes to the Rapids, though that's irrelevant at this point. The easiest schedule that matters goes to the Whitecaps, probably by dint of playing 3 of 5 at home and getting San Jose and Colorado. But they'll have to figure out how to score goals to make it matter and get back in the playoff race.

Avg Team Points Matches Pts / Match
Colorado 7.874 5 1.575
Real Salt Lake 7.66 5 1.532
Vancouver 7.489 5 1.498
Sporting KC 7.308 5 1.462
Chivas USA 7.296 5 1.459
New York 7.253 5 1.451
Houston 8.465 6 1.411
DC United 7.041 5 1.408
Chicago 8.201 6 1.367
Portland 6.825 5 1.365
Los Angeles 6.776 5 1.355
Montreal 6.75 5 1.35
New England 6.727 5 1.345
FC Dallas 6.687 5 1.337
Philadelphia 6.647 5 1.329
Toronto FC 7.88 6 1.313
San Jose 7.841 6 1.307
Seattle 7.741 6 1.29
Columbus 6.399 5 1.28

Cascadia Cup Odds

The Portland win both put them in playoff position and helped Seattle's Cascadia Cup odds. Now just a draw at home in the final Cascadia match on October 10th will return the Cup to Seattle and earn the Sounders their second piece of hardware this season.

Odds
Seattle 80.2%
Vancouver 19.8%
Portland :(

Seattle's First Round Matchup

We're still looking at a very likely RSL or Dallas matchup in Seattle's first round.

Odds
Real Salt Lake 44.0%
FC Dallas 32.1%
Portland 17.4%
Vancouver 3.9%
Los Angeles 2.4%